Autism itself is not the enemy.The barriers to development that are included with autism are the enemy. The retardation that springs from a lack of development is the enemy. The sensory problems that are often themselves the barriers are the enemy. These things are not part of who the child isnor are they barriers to who the child is meant to be. Accordingly the developmental blueprints are the enemies.
Imagine a world where Autism was the norm and non-autistics were the minority. Let's try it:
Those who feel the need to constantly be with a variety of friends are considered fickle. Those with no propensity for computers and science are called geeks. Those with no special interest are thought to be ungrounded and lost. Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.
Autism (with a capital "A") to us, says that we must accept our children wholly. We celebrate their differences and their quirkiness. We advocate diversity
. We try to empower them. We are proud of their successes, no matter how small they seem.
However, understanding and appreciating diversity needs more understanding of Autism. Autism is not a puzzle, nor a disease. Autism is a challenge, but certainly not a devastating one.
Autism is about having a pure heart and being very sensitive… It is about finding a way to survive in an overwhelming, confusing world… It is about developing differently, in a different pace and with different leaps.
Autistic beings develop and bloom if their spirits, talents and self-esteem are not destroyed by bullies, prejudice, 'doggie-training', and being forced to be 'normal'
The biggest challenge for us to live with and accept Autism is to classify and understand it.
What is Autism?
The typical characteristics of autism include problems with social relationships and emotional communication, in addition to patterns of behavior and interests that are less common in non-autistic people, and also involve a non-typical approach to sensory integration.
Typically, autism spectrum disorders appear during the first three years of life in the form of:
- Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age
- Does not speak one word by 16 months
- Does not combine two words by 2 years
- Does not respond to name
- Loses language or social skills
- Lacks eye contact
- Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys in the usual manner
- Excessively lines up toys or other objects
- Is attached to one particular toy or object
- Doesn't smile (socially, but may smile during periods of self-stimulatory behavior)
- At times seems to be hearing impaired
It is estimated that it occurs in approximately 2 to 6 in 1,000 individuals, and is 4 times more prevalent in males than females (source: The Autism Society of America . It is most prevalent in Caucasian males, although it occurs in every race.
Is it a social disease?
From the start, typically developing infants are social beings.
If you step in a nursery playground and you look at them, they gaze at you, turn toward your voice, grasp your finger, and even smile.
In Autism, they avoid contact
But, in the corner there, alone, you can notice a child avoiding eye contact, seems indifferent to other peopleand gets engaged better with a single toy than with a face.
In Autism, they often prefer being alone rather than in the company of others, may resist attention or passively accept such things as hugs and cuddling without caring. Later, they seldom seek comfort or respond to parents' displays of anger or affection in a typical way.
Although autistic children are attached to their parents, their expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to "read." To parents, it may seem as if their child is not attached at all. Parents who looked forward to the joys of cuddling, teaching, and playing with their child may feel crushed by this lack of the expected and typical attachment behavior.
In Autism, they don't see things from another person's perspective
While a normal 5-year-old understands that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have, an autistic person may lack such understanding, an inability that leaves them unable to predict or understand other people's actions.
Subtle social cues, whether a smile, a wink or a grimace may have little meaning for them.
To a child who misses these cues, "Come here" always means the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world may seem bewildering. To compound the problem, children with autism have difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective.
In Autism they have more tendency to lose control
Although not universal, it is common for children with Autism also to have difficulty regulating their emotions.
This can take the form of "immature" behavior such as crying in class or verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them. The autistic individual might also be disruptive and physically aggressive at times, making social relationships still more difficult. They have a tendency to "lose control," particularly when they're in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when angry and frustrated. They may at times break things, attack others, or hurt themselves. In their frustration, some bang their heads, pull their hair, or bite their arms.
In Autism, they have their own preferences
Although autistics usually appear physically normal and have good muscle control, unusual repetitive motions may set them apart. These behaviors might be extreme and highly apparent or more subtle. Some children and older individuals spend a lot of time repeatedly flapping their arms or walking on their toes, others suddenly freeze in position.
As children, they might spend hours lining up their cars and trains in a certain way, rather than using them for pretend play. If someone accidentally moves one of these toys, the child may be tremendously upset. Autistic children often need, and demand, absolute consistency in their environment. A slight change in any routinein mealtimes, dressing, taking a bath, going to school at a certain time and by the same routecan be extremely disturbing. Perhaps order and consistency lend some stability in a world of confusion.
Repetitive behavior sometimes takes the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation. For example, the child might be obsessed with learning all about vacuum cleaners, train schedules, or lighthouses. Often they show great interest in numbers, symbols, or science topics.
Is it a communication disorder?
By age 3, normal children have passed predictable milestones on the path to learning language; one of the earliest is babbling. By the first birthday, a typical toddler says words, turns when he hears his name, points when he wants a toy, and when offered something distasteful, makes it clear that the answer is "no."
In Autism things have a different path. Some autistics remain mute throughout their lives, while being fully literate and able to communicate in other ways -- images, sign language and typing are far more natural to them.
Some infants who later show signs of autism coo and babble during the first few months of life, but they soon stop. Others may be delayed, developing language as late as the teen years. Still, inability to speak does not mean that autistics are unintelligent or unaware – it is similar to a normal child with his, or her, mouth taped shut.
In Autism they have their own language
Those who do speak often use language in unusual ways, retaining features of earlier stages of language development for long periods or throughout their lives. Some speak only single words, while others repeat the same phrase over and over; or repeat what they hear. Sing-song repetitions in particular are a calming, joyous activity that many autistic adults engage in. Many autistics have a strong tonal sense, and can often understand spoken language better if it is sung to them.
Some children may exhibit slight delays in language, or even seem to have precocious language and unusuallylarge vocabularies, but have great difficulty in sustaining a conversation style. The "give and take" of conversation is hard for them, although they often carry on a monologue on a favorite subject, giving no one else an opportunity to comment. When given the chance to interact with other autistics, they comfortably do so in "parallel monologue" -- taking turns expressing views and information.
The body language of autistics is uniquely designed for other autistics, and therefore can be difficult for non-autistic people to understand.
In Autism they have their own expressions
Facial expressions, movements, and gestures are appropriate for and easily understood by other autistics, but do not match those used by non-autistic people. Also, their tone of voice has a much more subtle inflection in reflecting their feelings, and the normal ears often cannot sense the fluctuations.
With normal people often refusing to learn the autistic body language, and with autistic natural language not tending towards speech, autistic people often are forced to struggle to let others know what they need. As a result, as anybody would do in such a situation, they may scream in frustration or resort to grabbing what they want. While waiting for non-autistic people to learn to communicate with them, autistics do whatever they can to get through to them. As autistic people grow up, the accumulation of mistreatment, constant rejection from non-autistic people assuming that differences are something to "cure", and constantly being misunderstood bynon-autistic peoplerefusing to help bridge the gap, logically causes them to become anxious or depressed.
Origin of Autism
The causes and origins of Autism is a source of continuing conjecture and debate. There are several competing theories that address the source of the condition, amongst which are:
We all pass through phases of maturity of our nervous systems. One of these phases is called preoperational phase in which all the information we receive as children is processed visually and non-verbally. Autistic children are trapped in this stage.
The under-connectivity theory:
The brain works by electric impulses to transfer information among its different areas. A smooth transfer of information requires good connectivity between brain areas. If connection cables are not functioning normally, the brain areas are not harmonized in their actions. Such abnormality happens in people with Autism.
What to do with Autism?
Patience. Patience. Patience.
Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given children. It may be true that children with Autism are not good at eye contact or conversation, but they don't lie, cheat at games, tattle on their classmates or pass judgment on other people.
It is also true that they probably won't be the next Michael Jordan. But with their attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, they might be the next Einstein, Mozart or Van Gogh.
When living with a disease (or with a loved one who has one), it can be very easy to focus on the challenges and limitations. But in autistics' life, focusing on abilities, finding new ways to adapt, have been crucial to successes in life. Seeking those solutions can even be seen as a form of creativity.
Although, like anyone, theymay have moments of discouragement, those surrounding them have to learn to use these challenges to push them forward. There is much more to a life with Autism than just deficiencies and deficits, and those "deficiencies and deficits" can very well be strengths in certain circumstances
Treatment of Autism
There is no standard treatment for autism, and different professionals have different philosophies and practices in caring for their patients.
When seeking a specialist to treat a child's autism the opportunity should be available to ask questions and discuss the treatments available to the child. Be aware of all the options so that an informed decision can be made.
- A reputable specialist will present each type of treatment, provide the pros and cons, and make recommendations based on published treatment guidelines, and his or her own experience.
- The decision of which treatment to pursue is made with this specialist (with input from other members of the professional care team) and family members, but the decision is ultimately the caregivers'.
- Be certain to understand exactly what will be done and why, and what can be expected from the choices.
There is no cure for autism, nor is there a standard therapy that works for all people with autism. A number of different treatment approaches have evolved over time as we have learned more about autism.
Whatever approach is used for the child, an individualized treatment plan designed to meet his or her unique needs is essential.
- Most people with autism show developmental progress and respond to a combination of treatment and education.
- The traditional approach for a child with autism includes special education and behavioral management. There is some evidence that the earlier behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapy is begun, the better the long-term outcome. This is often an intensive and long-term commitment, and there is no easy answer. Behavioral treatments, medications, and other treatments may help manage some of the problems associated with autism.
Treatment strategies used in autism include behavioral, educational, biomedical, and complementary therapies. Some of these are supported by scientific studies, while others are not. It is important to discuss and consider the research support for the treatments chosen.
Many different biomedical treatments are used in autism. The most widely used are medications to treat seizures and behavioral and emotional problems associated with autism.
The fact that there is no definite cure for Autism needs not to threaten us as parents. Autism means that those children are simply approaching our world differently. We just need to learn to interface through therapy, play, school and medical interventions, depending on the child's needs. Give them the tools they need so they can communicate and understand; but above all a parent must not be one of those who insist on a cure as Autism is not something they have. It is integral to who they are.
Eliminate the autism, and you eliminate them. Those children have various gifts and instincts that might well be changed if they no longer had autism—they don't want to lose those. Don't underestimate persons with autism, instead try to understand.